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The Indefinite Article.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Customer Service Culture

BuzzMachine... by Jeff Jarvis

It is often perplexing to me when the culture of an organization appears defensive rather than accepting of criticism. Last month the New York Times did not cover large demonstrations protesting the terrorists within Iraq who are bombing things, etc. It was apparently well covered by local bloggers and since then, American blogs like Jeff Jarvis' (linked above) have attempted to take the Times to task for this oversight. In Jarvis' latest update, the Time's has responded and the response is composed of excuses.

This reminds me of my last interaction at the Apple Store. The power supply of my laptop went out and I went to the Houston Galleria Apple Store to get a warrantee replacement. The power supply is one of those show stoppers for a computer, nothing runs without it (although I'm not certain what failing on a laptop is not a show stopper). However, it is a small object that is readily available from anywhere. Still the Apple Store didn't have it.

The guy at the genius bar said, "we'll have one in two days and I will give you a call when it is in." I thought that was reasonable, because if they were out, it would take a weekday for them to order it and a day for the shipment to come in. However, that didn't keep my laptop running. I wound up buying a spare power supply, something that I had wanted anyway so I didn't have to cart it between the house and office all the time. Amber said that I should have been more upset, however, I have an understanding and acceptance of this sort of stuff.

The guy from the genius bar didn't call until the following Friday. Amber said that I should definitely say something about this, so when I picked up the replacement, I said that I understand about supply shortages, but would like to register a complaint about how long it took to get a replacement. The guy immediately gets defensive and starts saying how they never know when their supply gets low and it is hard to forecast, etc.

I said okay, just to shut him up. As a result, I really hate the Apple Store and this guy in particular because (a.) I wasn't treated like someone who bought something for $2,500 with tax since they didn't fix the damn thing even though they had other stock sitting on the shelf, and (b.) when I try to politely state my complaint, with the utmost of understanding that it isn't his fault personally, I get treated to excuses as if I am being unreasonable.

This goes against the social mores of customer service culture. It isn't that the customer is always right, but when the customer has some input you accept it as their viewpoint and respect it as their viewpoint even if you do plan to file the input in the trash. If the complaint is due to an error, you can optionally state the reason for the error, but in all likelihood you don't bother because it doesn't focus on fixing the error for that person, the reason for the error is only helpful within the organization to avoid the error in the future.

Why am I thinking about all of this? It goes back to the Dean Scream. So screaming is part of the internal culture of the Dean campaign and the scream speech was meant as a rallying the troops rally instead of a general "this is who I am and this is why you should vote for me" speech. What, they all do a collective Rowdy Roddy Piper or Hacksaw Jim Duggan impression while listing the states they're going to go to? I think that it is pretty disappointing that Dean didn't respect and accept the viewpoint of Iowa voters but instead retreated to his internal campaign culture.

But maybe it isn't so bad. Matt Welch writes that . . .

. . . having Dean going to all those states he named keeps the pissed-off wing of the party (not to mention non-voters) focused on the anti-Bush crusade, rather than trying to cook up some new Naderite charge.

I can't wait to fire up Garageband and product political fun like this: http://homepage.mac.com/kmickey/.Public/LileksBushKnewRobots.mp3


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